Urgent call for prayer and funds as starvation ravages East Africa

Development agencies are appealing to people to offer financial support and prayers for East Africa where 10 million people are facing starvation.

Some parts of the region are experiencing their driest conditions in 60 years, and crops and livestock are dying following two failed rainy seasons.

Tearfund said that deteriorating climatic conditions were taking their toll, despite the provision of support in recent years to help communities better withstand drought.

The development agency has asked Christians to pray for the region.

Richard Lister, Tearfund’s head of region for East Africa, said: “There has been widespread loss of crops and livestock and the impact of the drought has been worsened by high food prices and, in some areas, conflict.

“There is a high risk of this crisis becoming critical if rains remain erratic.”

Robert Schofield, disaster management director at Tearfund, said the problem was only going to get worse.

“We mustn’t forget this is sub-Saharan Africa, which is a challenging environment and this is going to keep happening for some people,” he said.

“Climate change means this is going to occur more frequently and will be worse each time, which is why two things are crucial: urgent international action must be taken to address climate change; and investment in long-term disaster risk reduction initiatives, so poor communities are prepared when they are faced with adverse weather conditions.”

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien appealed to people to give whatever they could.

He is lending his support to an emergency appeal launched by Scottish Catholic charity SCIAF to provide support to tens of thousands of people affected by the drought.

“From our relatively wealthy country of Scotland we cannot imagine the true horror of facing starvation,” he said.

“Yet this is the reality which thousands of men, women and children are facing. Ten million people are currently affected by the drought in the Horn and East of Africa.

“Many are abandoning their homes because their crops and livestock have died and their water sources have dried up. Families are walking for days on end without food, in blistering heat, in the hope that they will find help so that they can stay alive.

“In the face of this terrible crisis I believe it is important to remember that every single person affected is a member of our human family and that we have a responsibility to care for them in any way we can.”

Thousands of people across the region have left their homes in search of food, water and shelter. High levels of malnutrition are being reported amongst children in particular.

SCIAF is helping to provide clean water, food, temporary shelter, medicine and hygiene kits through its partners on the ground.

Lorraine Currie, SCIAF’s Head of International Programmes, said: “This crisis has been building for a long time as successive rains have failed, crops withered and livestock have died.

"Now hundreds of thousands of families are threatened with starvation on a massive scale if urgent action is not taken.”